Q: Our teen is applying for his first job. Is he required to disclose his type 1 diabetes to potential employers? What kinds of accommodations are allowed in the workplace?

A: People with type 1 diabetes are covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (A.D.A.), a federal law that provides legal protections for those affected by certain conditions, including chronic illnesses such as diabetes.

The A.D.A. contains several key rules governing discrimination and fair treatment in the workplace. When it comes to applying for jobs, what you and your teen with type 1 need to know is that it is illegal for employers to ask about disabilities until after a conditional offer of employment has been made. This means that nowhere on the job application paperwork should the applicant be asked to disclose whether he or she has diabetes.

Following a conditional offer of employment, however, it is acceptable for an employer to ask about disabilities or request a medical evaluation (depending on the nature of job), as long as the employer does this for all new employees. Even if the employer does not ask, it may be sensible for your teen to inform his supervisor about his diabetes to make sure he receives breaks to eat a snack and is able to monitor blood sugar levels and perform diabetes tasks as needed. An effective way to provide the employer with information concerning diabetes is to obtain a letter from your diabetes care team outlining your teen’s needs. You can download sample letters on the American Diabetes Association’s website.

Over the course of your teen’s employment, he should be aware of other A.D.A. protections in place to protect against diabetes discrimination. These include rules that an employer:

1. Cannot fail to hire or promote because of diabetes.

2. Cannot terminate an employee because he or she has diabetes.

3. Must provide reasonable accommodations to help an employee perform the essential functions of his or her job.

4. Must not discriminate with regard to employer-provided health insurance.

Your teen’s first job is an exciting moment of transition into the grown-up world of working adults. Understanding and feeling confident about his workplace rights can serve your son well, both in this job and in his future career. It’s worth taking time to become educated about the Americans with Disabilities Act and how it applies to people with diabetes. For more information, the American Diabetes Association is a good source for more resources on this topic. If you have further questions, you can call 1-800-DIABETES to ask how you can speak with a legal advocate.

KGordonPPCPhoto_0.jpg–Katharine Gordon is the director of the American Diabetes Association’s legal advocate program.


How Other Parents Deal
“Our son’s first job was working at a family-owned restaurant in town. He bused tables and washed dishes. The owners had been in the restaurant business for years and were so understanding about his need to care for his diabetes. They had worked with other employees with type 1 in the past, which helped. Personally, I think working in a restaurant is an ideal first job for a teen with diabetes, because if a low develops or a quick snack is needed, there is plenty of food around!”
–Danielle G., Worcester, Mass., mother of 19-year-old Julian

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Disclaimer: The information in these articles is not intended as medical advice. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding individual care.